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Work with refugees and Arabic.

Hello - I'd be really grateful for your help with this! I'm going to be working with refugees in a refugee camp, and I'm just wondering what dialect of Arabic would be most useful to know. I know that there are so many - the refugees there will probably most likely be Syrian and Iraqi - so is there a particular dialect that would help me to work with them? Also, if I did go for Levantine Arabic, for example, how similar would that be to the Iraqi form of Arabic?

Thank you so much for all your help! Any ideas about the dialect that I should learn?

June 25, 2017



I am in a very slightly similar situation in that I may be working a bit with some Syrians and Iraqis soon, but I am new to these dialects. However, I have studied MSA and Moroccan Dialect for a long time, so even though Levantine and Iraqi are new to me I know what to expect, how to read and write, and I know a good bit about Arabic and how different the dialects are.

I recommend: 1st: learn the alphabet on Memrise and learn to read and write basic words (MSA if fine for this. Knowing a bit of MSA won't hurt you, and that's where the best Beginner resources are). Even if your work won't include reading and writing, do it! It will make you much better at studying and learning new words or phrases in any dialect!!! 2nd: This be done at the same time as 1st. Listen to as much Syrian/Shaami Arabic (regarded as a subdialect of Levantine Arabic) and Iraqi Arabic (not part of Levantine Arabic, but not as far off as some dialect pairs can be) as possible. There are movies on the internet and tv shows and music on youtube. 3rd: If you can, pay for a tutor (or 2, one for each dialect). If you can't, arrange a language exchange with someone who wants to learn English. Also, if you can, and this is much cheaper, pay for a yearly membership with talkinarabic.com, one of the ONLY resources that focuses on dialects and not MSA.

I hope this helps.


I once took a course "Introduction to Arabic" and there were a lot of volunteers who worked with refugees in the same course. The teacher however was from Egypt. He said that they would do pretty well with the arabic he taught, except for some mathematical stuff, I think. (But that's hardly ever relevant except for one school teacher who was also there.)


Thank you so much! I'll have a look into MSA, but if anybody else has any other opinions, please feel free to comment!


I would personally have them tell you about local Arabic lessons


Levantine Arabic would be the best choice. I study MSA in college and there are a lot of Egyptian and Syrian in the course literature as well. I would say that Egyptian and Syrian are mutually intelligible most of the times.

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